Man accused in the triple Christmas Eve murders will under go mental competency

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A mental competency examination was ordered Wednesday fora man accused of fatally shooting three people, including two killed in a caroutside the Westfield Mission Valley mall last Christmas Eve.

Carlo Gallopa Mercado, 29, is charged in the deaths of Ilona Flint andSalvatore Belvedere, who were shot at 1:11 a.m. Dec. 24 in the mall parkinglot, and Belvedere’s older brother, who was Flint’s fiance. Gianni Belvedere’sdecomposed body was found in the trunk of his car in Riverside on Jan. 17.

All three were shot in the head with a .22-caliber handgun belonging toMercado, according to evidence produced at a preliminary hearing earlier thismonth. A motive was not disclosed. A detective wrote in a search warrant thathe didn’t know if Mercado acted alone or if he had help from other co-conspirators.

Today, Deputy Public Defender Gary Gibson told Judge Kathleen Lewis thathe had a doubt as to Mercado’s mental competency for trial. The judgesuspended criminal proceedings, ordered the defendant held without bail, andset a hearing on the results of the evaluation for Oct. 28.

Deputy District Attorney Brian Erickson told a judge at the preliminaryhearing that Gianni Belvedere, 24, was last heard from about 11:30 p.m. on Dec.23 when his phone conversation with a man abruptly ended.

Salvatore Belvedere and Flint, both 22, were shot about 90 minuteslater, the prosecutor said, adding that a silencer was probably used in thekillings because no gunshots were heard on a 911 call from Flint as she wasshot.

The defendant’s DNA was found on a can of air freshener and tape used tohold down the trigger to quash the smell of Gianni Belvedere’s decomposingbody in the trunk of his car, Erickson alleged.

On Jan. 18, a “despondent” Mercado was stopped about 4:45 a.m. at theSan Clemente checkpoint when an agent noticed a weapons case in the back seatof his Ford Explorer, Erickson said.

Mercado admitted having an assault rifle in the car, but didn’t mentiontwo loaded handguns — a .22-caliber and a .45-caliber — magazines and boxesof ammunition found in a backpack on the front seat.

A homemade silencer was also found in the vehicle.

Mercado was arrested for the shootings of Flint and the Belvederebrothers in late June. District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has yet to decidewhether Mercado will face the death penalty or life in prison without parole ifconvicted.

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